Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dr. Krishna Sivaraman
Dr. Paul Younger
The Tirumantiram is a three thousand verse Tamil manual of Āgamic Saivism composed about the seventh century A.D. by a yogī sage known as Tirumūlar. This work was accepted into the canonical collection of Saiva devotional works known as the Tirumurai, and can be shown to have significantly influenced the writers of the later canonical collection of Saiva philosophical texts. Still, the Tirumantiram remains little known outside of South India and even less understood. Both Indian and Western scholars have tended to ignore this work which they commonly characterize as being obscure, opaque and esoteric. While acknowledging the presence of obscure verses and coded portions of the text dealing with advanced yogic instruction, it is my intention to show (a) that the Tirumantiram was composed for a wide-ranging audience of householders and rulers as well as learned Brahmins and trained yogis, and (b) that the aim was to reconcile tensions existing between various Southern Saiva sects. I will also argue that Tirumūlar sought to accomplish this task by creatively explicating the metaphysical, moral and mystical aspects of Āgamic Saivism with the aid of mythic figures in order to communicate his insights on a more popular level.
The mythic references incorporated into the text lend themselves to being studied under three general exegetical headings. That is, they can be distinguished as having an apologetic, tropological or anagogical thrust corresponding to the three facets of Saivism mentioned above. In the process of analyzing the mythic imagery and indicating how it was skillfully employed to develop major themes which are reiterated on a more advanced level in other portions of the text, it should become clear that, on the whole, the Tirumantiram was a unified composition and not a mere compilation of solitary verses as has been suggested by K. Zvelebil and others. To my knowledge, this is the most protracted study of the Tirumantiram in English since A. Visvanatha Pillai produced his translation and commentary on several hundred selected verses in the mid 1960's.
The numbering of Tirumantiram verses cited or quoted in this study follows that found in G. Varadarajan's Edition. The latter was chosen because it is both reliable and more readily available than other responsible editions. For words I have followed the form of transliteration adopted by standard works on Indology. As for the transliteration of Tamil, several systems are currently in use. Here I will follow that set forth in the Madras Tamil Lexicon.
Martin, Judith G., "The Function of Mythic Figures in the Tirumantiram" (1983). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1539.